The three little words "ice storm warning" are all that it took to launch Iowa’s largest utility into emergency preparation mode. Ann Thelen, spokeswoman for MidAmerican Energy, says the approaching winter blast has the potential to cause serious damage to the company’s power lines and other infrastructure, so they’re getting ready.
Thelen says, "We are seeking contract crews, bringing them in from neighboring states such as Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, in an effort to be prepared when and if the ice storm does hit, we will have additional resources here available to help." Forecasters say the storm has the potential to coat much of southern Iowa with up to three-quarters of an inch of ice, while northern Iowa may see up to ten inches of snow.
Thelen says that thick layer of ice can doom hundreds, even thousands of customers, to darkness, especially if the wind picks up.
"If you get wind with the ice, the lines start galloping," Thelen says. "There’s a lot of weight and the poles can start toppling just like dominos.
That also makes travel difficult for our crews to get to where we need to go." She says Iowans need to take a few precautions before the storm arrives — and use common sense after it hits. Thelen says to stay away from downed power lines as they may still be energized. Get flashlights ready and prepare an emergency kit in case the power does go out. She says not to assume your neighbor has called in a power outage and call it in yourself.
Also, Thelen says never to use gasoline-powered generators inside your home and don’t use your stove to try and heat the house — both can have disasterous results.
Alliant Energy is also preparing for the approaching storm. Alliant spokesman Scott Smith says they’ve already mobilized crews and extra tree trimming resources, and have prepare hotel rooms and places for crews to eat throughout southeast Iowa to be ready to react.
Many schools are closing or letting out early in anticipation of the storm. The Des Moines International Airport is advising travelers to check before leaving home for a flight, or to pick someone up, as some airlines are already cancelling some flights as a precaution in anticipation of the storm.